Following his first collegiate start Sept. 14 against Toledo, Minnesota running back Terry Jackson II was one of only a few not surprised about receiving the nod from coach Glen Mason.
Three weeks later, Jackson proved his worth to a nationally televised audience.
Jackson tore up Illinois on Thursday night for 159 yards rushing. Fellow running back Thomas Tapeh’s added 113 yards to revitalize a Minnesota rushing attack which mustered only 83 yards last weekend against Purdue.
“Purdue really stuck with us this week,” Jackson said. “But tonight we showed we play stronger when we’re a family. We went out there and manhandled them. I really hope it is a sign of things to come.”
The pair of 100-yard rushers was the Gophers first in the same game since last October when Marion Barber III and Tellis Redmon each went over 100 against Michigan State.
“That’s really important,” Tapeh said of the two rushing totals. “We had to get the run going again this week, to get some respect again. We used it as our motto.”
Illinois punt rush unit got on the board with a safety before Jackson went to work. The sophomore took the Gophers’ next hike and scampered 59 yards, his second longest of the season. Jackson recorded a 71-yard run against Buffalo on Sept. 21.
The run set up Minnesota for a nine-yard touchdown strike from Asad Abdul-Khaliq to Aaron Hosack. But Jackson’s night was not over.
After two more three-and-out drives and a pair of incomplete passes stalled another, Jackson again sparked the Gophers’ offense.
A 34-yard Jackson scamper to open the next drive put Minnesota in position to run four more plays before Dan Nystrom kicked a 23-yard field goal to put Minnesota ahead 10-2.
With a 10-10 score looming, Tapeh crossed the goal line at the end of the first half to put Minnesota up for good.
Though he didn’t record a touchdown, Jackson’s set up runs were equally valuable as was the play of Minnesota’s offensive line providing the holes.
“You have to love them,” Mason said of the line while cracking a smile. “Two walk-ons, two true freshmen and a senior. They don’t always get their names mentioned but they sure work their tails off.”
ide receiver Jermaine Mays, who also sees time on special teams, showed why Thursday night.
Mays blocked his second punt in as many weeks when he used his left arm to block Matt Minnes’ attempt midway through the third quarter. He then used his whole body to recover the ball two yards deep in the end zone to all but put the game away.
It was his third career blocked punt.
he Minnesota sideline looked more like a “M.A.S.H” unit Thursday.
Senior captain cornerback Mike Lehan did not play in the game and was on the sideline with a deep thigh bruise believed to be suffered sometime Tuesday. Mason said Lehan woke up Wednesday morning and could not walk. He used crutches sparingly all evening but mostly was aided with a medical cart.
Defensive end Charlton Keith was also carted off the field with his left ankle wrapped in ice. Abdul-Khaliq had his right ankle iced.
Nystrom breaks record
ith a 23-yard field goal in the second quarter, senior Dan Nystrom broke Chip Lohmiller’s school record of 57 field goals.
Nystrom’s 310 total points tie him for third all-time in the Big Ten.